The exhibition games are part of Opening Series Japan 2008, which culminates in a two-game series between the defending champion Red Sox and A's that officially opens the regular season. Those games are set for Tuesday and Wednesday, with both games beginning at 3:05 a.m. PT/6:05 a.m. ET.
Right-hander Justin Duchscherer is expected to start for Oakland against Hanshin, which features a familiar face in Lew Ford, who played for the Twins from 2003-07. Ford made a highlight-reel catch in Hanshin's 6-5 loss to the Red Sox in the exhibition opener here earlier Saturday.
"There's a few guys here that I knew when I was with the Twins," said A's catcher Rob Bowen, who made his big league debut with Minnesota in 2003. "Some sort of pipeline, I guess."
Transitioning from the bullpen to the starting rotation, Duchscherer, who was a standout starter in the Minors, allowed five runs on nine hits and four walks over eight innings of Cactus League work this spring, and he'll be limited to fewer than 80 pitches against Hanshin.
"He's still on track to be right there by the time his first turn [during the regular season] comes up," said pitching coach Curt Young, adding that Duchscherer will start one of Oakland's three final exhibition games against the San Francisco Giants in the annual preseason Bay Bridge Series, March 28-30.
The way the A's schedule shakes out, righties Joe Blanton and Rich Harden will team up to handle the starting duties for the club's first four regular-season games, first here, then April 1-2 at McAfee Coliseum, also against the Red Sox. Oakland is off on April 3, and Duchscherer is tentatively scheduled to start against the visiting Cleveland Indians on April 4.
Duchscherer, who made 17 relief appearances in 2007 before being shelved by a strained right hip -- he underwent season-ending surgery on the hip July 11 -- threw in the bullpen at Tokyo Dome the day after the A's arrived in Japan, but he was the only Athletics player not on the field during batting practice before the exhibition game against Yomiuri.
Geren said Duchscherer was receiving treatment during batting practice and insisted his No. 3 starter wasn't hurt in any way, calling the right-hander's absence a "time thing."